RCMP preaches caution as cryptocurrency fraud calls rise

The Saskatchewan RCMP are warning the public to do their research and remain vigilant as local law enforcement sees an increase in cryptocurrency fraud calls since the beginning of 2023.

According to a Monday media release, Swift Current and Maidstone RCMP detachments have collectively received reports of more than 140 people falling victim to fraudulent calls, many involving cryptocurrency. In total, victims reported more than $931,000 in cryptocurrency fraud losses.

Constable Tyson Maxwell is one of two Crypto Coordinators for the Saskatchewan RCMP, under the Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit. He reviews crypto currency files for the entire Division and provides officers with recommendations on how to investigate these files.

“There are thousands of different cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency companies in the market today. Some are legitimate companies, while others may have weak online security or are completely fraudulent,” said Maxwell. “Investigating cryptocurrency fraud is complex as perpetrators are often at various international locations or hiding through hard to trace IP addresses.” 

The RCMP have resources available to track and trace some transactions, but they need to act fast. Multiple departments and agencies may be needed to investigate these cases.

“Once a crypto transaction has been completed, it cannot be reversed. If the investment looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you choose to invest, use a major reputable trading platform or online exchange and do your research to protect yourself,” Maxwell said, adding that he also recommends individuals to monitor the price of cryptocurrency themselves on a reputable trading program. “We have lots of investment scams, where the scammer says the victim made 20 per cent on their Ethereum investment for example – when they were actually going down 10 per cent. A good way to know if you’re being scammed is to verify through other sources what your investment company tells you.”

The scams have been reported to have taken place through the following tactics:

• Authoritative fraud — A scammer pretends to be from a government agency, like the CRA or police, and demands payments for outstanding taxes or warrants for arrests. The scammer instructs victims to go to a cryptocurrency ATM in the city to purchase and send cryptocurrency.

• A “learn to trade in crypto program” — Involves a scammer demanding a victim to send money to be able to learn how to trade cryptocurrency and make money. The scammer tells the victim to either send more money since the first amount never arrived, or to pay to send learning materials through the mail for the learning program.

• False advertising — Other reports include scammers luring victims using investment opportunities for cryptocurrencies to make a profit by creating links on various social media advertisements to steal investments. Scammers entice victims to invest from their personal savings and restrict all access to their accounts. Scammers create a fraudulent company online or compromise a victim’s digital wallet, resulting in a complete loss of funds.

“Cryptocurrency is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded, or transferred, and can be used for payment or investment purposes,” said the media release. “It is protected by a form of encryption, known as cryptography, and relies on public and private keys to transfer value from one person (individual or entity) to another. Cryptocurrency can be used to purchase both legal and illegal goods and services.”

Warning signs of cryptocurrency fraud may include investment opportunities with higher-than-normal returns, unsolicited telephone, email or social media investment offers, suspicious messages from a trusted source — like a bank or family member, cryptocurrency investments that aren’t registered with provincial or national securities regulators, or contact pages that include an illegitimate address.

The Saskatchewan RCMP works closely with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to investigate cryptocurrency files.

If you, or someone you know, fall victim to a fraud, report it to your local police department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/report-signalez-eng.htm or 1-888-495-8501.

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